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India bans 232 Chinese lending and betting apps
And a few non-Chinese lending apps that appear to have been scooped by accident
India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has commenced the process to ban and block 138 betting apps and 94 loan lending apps with Chinese links, but has drawn criticism for a lack of transparency and the inclusion of several non-Chinese platforms.
The ban has reportedly been executed on behalf of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) after app operators granted substantially large loans and then engaged in extortion, harassment, and other nasty measures to achieve repayment at annual interest rates up to 3,000 percent.
The Indian government began investigating lending apps last year and also issued an advisory in October 2022 against betting and gambling platforms. The Reserve Bank of India attempted [PDF] to further regulate the industry in August 2022 by issuing new guidelines on digital lending which include requirements for better transparency of interest rates and securing explicit consent for loans.
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The announcement of the bans came from India’s state-owned public broadcaster, Prasar Bharati News Services (PBNS) on Sunday.
MeitY is yet to detail the bans, which has drawn criticism and created confusion, particularly as some non-Chinese apps, were reportedly included in the ban. Among these blocked non-Chinese are fintech platform PayU, buy-now-pay-later service LazyPay, and lending platform Kissht.
“In the absence of a legal order ... we ask for transparency and disclosure,”tweeted digital liberties non-profit Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF).
The org elaborated:
The reported reason for blocking these apps on an “urgent” & “emergency” basis was that they reportedly have Chinese links. However, mass blocking based on common, aggregated grounds goes against the individualised nature of the blocking power under Sec 69A & Blocking Rules. 4/n— Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) (@internetfreedom) February 6, 2023
IFF said it was “particularly” concerned with MeitY’s “disregard towards procedural safeguards,” especially as there was no proof of urgent emergency justifying the bans.
“Such wide-scale banning undermines nuanced policy approaches for protecting the digital rights of the citizens,” said the advocacy group. ®